An historical and interesting town in the hills south of Cefalù, Castelbuono is part of the Parco delle Madonie and a really beautiful hill town to explore. It has ancient roots (doesn't everything in Sicily?!) going back to the ancient Sicana people who lived here in the 3rd century BC. Then it came under the Greek colony. It saw a Byzantine presence, and bears markings from its Arab-Norman period. The castle was originally built by the Normans. In the 1200s a group of Geracesi moved here (from Geraci). The current name dates to 1329 and an official document filed by the Count Francesco Ventimiglia declaring to the Bishop of Cefalù that he was in possession of the woods and lands of the territory of Castri Boni. The town remained a possession of the Ventimiglia family until 1860.
All around town are narrow streets, beautiful corners and features, and decorated churches. It's definitely worth spending a day to absorb it all and enjoy the hill town atmosphere. There are more than a dozen churches, but the most important one is the Chiesa Matrice Vecchio (mother church) dedicated to the Holy Assumption (Santissima Assunta). It is in late Romanesque-Gothic style, has a portico and stone bell tower, and inside bears a gorgeous altarpiece and frescoes. The other to not miss is the church and cloister of San Francesco.
Of course the very visible crowning feature of town is the castle, built by the Normans originally, then expanded. It has a cube-like Arab style to the main structure, while the corner towers are Norman style, and it was the seat of the Ventimiglia princes for centuries. Inside is the Museo Civico, with artifacts and historical exhibits, as well as contemporary art. A highlight of the castle, though, is the Cappella Palatina di Sant'Anna, a chapel rioutously decorated in Baroque stuccoes. It is, in a word, amazing.
You shouldn't miss the Fontana della Venere Ciprea, a Renaissance era monumental fountain that was part of the Ventimiglia family's garden. Around town, there are many delights, so do wander and explore to seek them out. The gathering space is Piazza Margherita, while Via Umberto runs off it and is outlined in shops and cafes. Heading out the piazza towards the castle is Via Sant'Anna, with a selection of restaurants, too.
The city's patron saint is Sant'Anna and a big party is held in her honor July 17-27. Castelbuono is also big on Carnevale, with allegorical skits and a bit of debauchery.
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